Rise Up to Wise Up · How Knowledge Ends Extremism

Rise Up to Wise Up · How Knowledge Ends Extremism

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” Nelson Mandela, 2017

I walked up the stairs and pass the pillars of the Carnegie Institution of Science. Making my way into the room where scholars, activists, philanthropists, professionals and government officials, including representatives of the FBI, came together to raise their voices and unite for Muslims all over the world.

During the premiere of the Wise Up Summit, I was blown away by the wisdom and statistics I learned about my own people. Wise Up is a movement to develop a comprehensive solution to end extremism and Islamophobia and to strengthen our national unity. The Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) is a global program.

That’s Daisy Khan in the front view watching the panel.

Something extraordinary happened, many faiths came together to work towards ending terrorism through knowledge. Education is a tool and with it, we can be better people towards each other. Isn’t that something we can all support?

Daisy Khan founded this movement, and often would humbly give so much credit to everyone involved in making the Wise Up booklet.

Seventy-two. That’s what I heard. It took 72 scholars, researchers, faith leaders, and public servants to invest great thought and effort to rise up and lead us into Wise Up — Daisy Khan jokes, better than 72 virgins.

To my surprise, the summit started off for me getting impressively schooled by a young Boy Scout.

Before America was a nation, Muslims traveled here. In fact, a young Mexican-American Muslim Boy Scout schooled me that 30% of Africans brought to America as slaves followed the Islam faith. Building America from the ground up, Muslims blood, sweat, and tears are embedded in America. “They tell us to go back to our country, but this is our country.”

Furthermore, I learned …

That I knew nearly nothing.

Sami H Elmansoury spoke about the constant push and pull of our dual identities. He went on to stress that it shouldn’t be the case, “we are so much more than that and we don’t have to choose.” He goes on to explain the struggle we as American-Muslims face, constantly having to identify ourselves because of the color of our skin. Even though our “kind” has been around since the beginning and even elevated America in tremendous ways. Like his grandfather who was part of reasons why we landed on the moon. He urges us to become “Ambassadors of truth — to speak up when we see wrong.” This will help Americans and the world understand.

Last year in 2016, violent hate crimes against Muslim Americans tripled — more than after September 11th. That’s not okay. So naturally, we wondered … Why?  Here’s an example of the power of influence some have, back then, when 9/11 happened, our president at the time visited a mosque to announce “Islam is not our enemy.” A certain president, today, may think otherwise.

All crimes are tragedies but it’s the height of ignorance behind these acts. I believe we can change. I believe we can be better to each other.

That awkward question … “What’s that on your head?”

There’s nothing really wrong with being curious and if you like, feel free to ask. But please be courteous.

Hassanah El-Yacoubi told a story of when she was on a flight. The passenger next to her didn’t speak a word to her at all and mostly kept to himself. Until he asked, ‘what is that on your head?’

She said, ‘this is a head scarf and I wear it because I’m a Muslim woman, and just as Jesus’ mother did, I wear it for my modesty.’ He turned to her and said, ‘that is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.’ True story. But he clearly wasn’t as expressive as my enlargement of that font size.

Extremists distort Islam into a religion of fear rather than a religion of love and mercy.

– Shaikh Kabir Helminski

Islam is practiced in so many different ways — there is not one type of Muslim woman. Every bodies reasoning is their own and learning to embrace that brings about a beautiful confidence.

We have to recognize where we came from and continue to educate on where we’re going.

– Ameena Jandali

Two of the panels that impacted me the most were “Islamic Theology vs. Extremist Ideology”, “Why Women Join ISIS” and “How Women Can Lead in Peacebuilding” both moderated by journalist, activist, American author, and religious writer for The Washington Post, Sally Quinn.

Sally Quinn, Daisy Khan, and Swanee Hunt

Many people took the stage for this one, including a former Jihadist who spoke about the Isam that is and the one that is perceived. He was asked, why he parted ways with those groups and he proudly spoke of the beauty of his religion – that there is fundamentally something wrong with people flying planes into buildings and killing people. YES.

I want to leave you with words that my friend Mino Akhtar shared in her article — it gave me chills.

With my new friend and fellow journalist Mino Akhtar. Read her piece here.

Sitting in the audience, soaking it all in, I felt a strong wave of hope rise within me that “this too shall pass” and human dignity, intelligence, dialogue would prevail despite the barrage of screaming voices that sow hate and division which they know silently winks a go-ahead for violence and those who profit immensely from it. How lucky I am, I said to myself, to actually be in the presence of such grace, such intelligence, such patience, such vision and such hope.  I promised I would take this experience with me and never let it go. It was a precious gift I received, and now my job was to pass it on. I want to tell everyone that humanity is within our reach and we can bring it back again; I want to tell others to seek knowledge and share knowledge and learn, learn, learn! I want to tell others that I always knew my faith is beautiful and deep, and no “terrorist” or “War on Terror” can steal that away from me! I want to tell others that behind the manufacturers of fear are a whole series of industries profiting infinitely. I want to tell others that extremists exist in all faiths, and we have to illuminate their deceit and evil but also understand their root causes and heal their hurt, their pain, their suffering whether it is from bombings or layoffs, the losses that they in their wounded hearts hold onto, who then become easy fodder for maniacal cults no matter which faith or nation they steal their names and disguises from.

— Mino Akhtar, SufiDialogue.com

You can watch clips of the Wise Up Summit here.